We all write them…but do we really know how?
I know, I know…sounds silly to ask, especially in the Information Age business world we live in.
Still, when it comes to etiquette, how we frame professional communication within pragmatic boundaries is worth discussion.
As a governmental employee, I’ve been on both sides of the decorum fence as a sender and recipient. So trust me when I say the importance of lining up what you say and what you mean is very important.
That said, here are three practical points in delivering quality e-mail content…
1. Keep it ‘short and sweet’
As a writer, I admit: I can be wordy at times. I remember early in my career, I would often exhaust my word count fearing I’d say too little, conceal my tact, and/or give my recipient room to read between the lines.
Yet, after years of composition, I ultimately discovered my best e-mails were the ones with simple language and basic syntax (think 4th grade level as opposed to 8th 1). Granted, variance in e-mail construction hinge on the need; however, in most professional scenarios, e-mails will either answer a question or call to action.
Thus, if you want to communicate more effectively, consider a ‘short and sweet’ approach. Not only will you capture the problem more cogently, but also increase the odds of it being solved more quickly. Not to mention you limit the risk of asking unnecessary questions.
Bottom line: Coherency and conciseness go hand in hand.
After all, if you’re going to troubleshoot, why not shoot straight?
Bonus: If you’re concerned your ‘short and sweet’ e-mail is more on the short than sweet side, consider inserting a smiley emoji after the greeting or concluding sentence (informal cases only).
2. Make humility apparent
In a day-to-day grind, it’s hard to be perfect. Clearly, as long as there’s work, there’s going to be errors…and with errors, an assortment of cleanup, manipulative maneuvers2, and mountains made from molehills.
Okay, okay…maybe those last two are a tad extreme; however, as real world correction has taught me, it’s worth noting how to handle being on the wrong side of them.
‘Cause truth is: when people throw you shade, there’s always a fade3…and that, in one word, is humility.
Now I know for many humility is nothing more than a ‘kill with kindness’ or ‘fall on the sword’ strategy; however, given true humility has no agenda, it’s safe to say these approaches are flawed since they cater to what you want to say or what you think others want you to say.
From my experience, if you want to live true humility in the marketplace, the best approach is through forthright evaluation. In other words, if there’s something to own, be sincere in owning it; if there’s something to resolve, be direct in resolving it.
Remember when rectifying conflict electronically, the emphasis should always be reconciling the issue as opposed to justifying why it exists. In doing so, not only will you validate concerns, but establish value to whom and what is necessary to move the ball down the field.
Bottom line: Wrong turns happen. Why not write4 the ship by humbling yourself and letting God’s grace exalt you?
3. Proofread your tone, not just your grammar
It’s fair to say the e-mail equivalent of ‘think before you speak‘ is ‘proof before you send’.
Need proof? Just check out your app store…
Yet, while most of us associate proofreading to syntax and grammar, arguably one of the most underrated elements in e-mail content construction is checking for tone.
Yes, you may be able to master subject lines, use the right words, and succinctly capture information; however, if you don’t put yourself in your recipient’s shoes before pressing ‘send’, you risk losing the message through ambiguity and misunderstanding.
Bottom line: When proofing your e-mails, dare to read them as sender and receiver.
- Just because you decrease the reading level, doesn’t mean you decrease the tact
- i.e. ‘throw under the bus’ tactics
- Specifically, a fade from offense
- Intentional misspelling
Cover photo creds: Shutterstock